“You’re such a dork!” Ah the loving words of my nineteen-year-old daughter. She knows me all too well. But, really? A dork? I prefer nerd if I had to choose between the two. Dork says obnoxious kid with squeaky voice and high-water pants. Nerd says Bill Nye the Science Guy. Cool. I’m sure Bill Nye would go looking for wildflowers.
And so I put on my plant nerd hat this last Saturday morning, and my sister and I joined the South Carolina Native Plant Society folks for a wildflower hike. Well, actually it was more of a stroll…or even a mosey. It took forever to hike…stroll…mosey our way down a one-mile trail stopping to discuss this plant or that, asking lots of questions of our very knowledgeable and patience guides.
We started at the Station Cove Falls Trailhead off Rt 95 at the Oconee Station State Historic Site somewhere west of Greenville, SC. You should probably click on the link if you want a more accurate geographic location. I just know we drove west out of Greenville for about one hour and even managed to get off our intended route. (Geez…what is it with the lack of signage in SC?)
It is very early spring and many of the wildflowers were just beginning to peek out from under the leaf-littered forest floor, but oh my…was it delightful!
Upon setting out, we immediately discovered Strawberry-bush, hearts-a-burstin’ (Euonymus americanus), one of my new favorite shrubs, but because they were just tall twigs, I didn’t snap a picture. Tall twigs don’t make for exciting pictures, but I will return to get a pic of them when the seed pods are ‘a-burstin’.
What I did get lots of pictures of is the very beautiful Trillium (Trillium cuneatum). Joe Townsend has written a very informative article about trilliums in the Upstate of South Carolina. You can read it here…but only after you look at the pics below of this enchanting wildflower!
Trilliums have three leaves and produce one three-petaled flower. Occasionally a quadrillium (four-leaved trillium) can be found. There were at least two spotted by hikers in our group. (So is that good luck as with spotting a four-leaf clover?) The variety of leaf colors and patterns on this wildflower is amazing!
Spring is truly one of my favorite seasons as plants start to emerge. Yes, I am aware of how nerdy it is to get excited when you pull back the mulch and spot new growth. Below, violets were beginning to peek out from under the leaf litter along the trail.
Mother Nature showed us her sense of style by decorating the base of a tree with a violet.
We saw Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). It is an evergreen, clumping fern. This is one I will definitely find a use for in the shade garden.
A really interesting discovery (for me) was Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). This deciduous wildflower has either one stem with a single leaf or two stems, each with a single leaf, with a single flower in the fork between them.
As we made our way farther down the trail, I suddenly became aware of the sound of falling water. I had completely forgotten that there was a waterfall at the end…thus the name of the trail, Station Cove Falls Trail. And boy was there a waterfall.
We had a really nice lunch spot by the falls. The weather was beautiful, the company was great, and the juicy pear I had for lunch wasn’t too bad either!
On the way back to the trail head, my sister, Mary, and I snuck off the trail to visit a beaver dam. It felt a little naughty to step off the trail, but a visit to the dam was recommended by our leaders. We weren’t so sure of the direction we were heading until we saw the first signs of beaver activity.
We found one dam, and I’m pretty sure we were looking at another. Those beavers are pretty busy guys…and gals.
In taking a closer look around us, we could see the damage done to the trees in the vicinity of the dams.
We found our way back to the trail and headed back to Greenville for a little shopping (for ugly sneakers…have you seen sneakers lately?), dinner, and to end the day, the symphony.
Find more information about the South Carolina Native Plant Society, membership, and field trips look on their website at www.scnps.org.